Meet Our Community with Odessa Stevens

Odessa, left and her mentee, Ruby making their way through the exhibit

I became a CfY Mentor because I had spent a lot of time giving back in a variety of ways – it didn’t matter if I was part of a board, working, or lobbying, I never really saw a deeper impact. A lot of things get caught in politics and bureaucracy, and it gets frustrating. After a while, I realized that if I wanted to make the world a better place, it always stems back to our youth and their lives right now.

As mentors, we help contribute to the future of these students’ lives and therefore our community, our neighborhoods, our economy, and before you even know it, us as mentors. I became a mentor to make the world a bit of a better place, but I never imagined how much I would change and how supported I would feel every week. I came to CfY in a very broken place, but my mentee, family group, and community healed and helped me. I learned it is OK to be me and that everyone is different and amazing at the same time. I learned to slow down, to stop competing with myself and that my problems were minor in comparison to others.

With my student, it is hard to say who is truly the mentor, but in the very end, we are friends more than anything. I will never forget the time we went to the Work No. 360: Half the air in a given space at Henry Art Gallery. It was nearly overwhelming walking into a room filled with balloons. You could not see a step in front of you, let alone where the exit was. I think that Ruby (my student) and I both panicked for a moment, but took a deep breath and knew that panicking would not get us out of the room, and it would not give us a good experience. We found our way and got out just fine.